Democratic Republic of the Congo: Peace Process and Background
CRS Report for Congress
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Peace Process and Background
August 14, 2001
Raymond W. Copson
Specialist in International Relations
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Peace Process and Background
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, is a vast, resource-rich
country of nearly 50 million people. In August 1998, Congo was plunged into its
second civil war in 2 years. A peace accord was concluded in Lusaka, Zambia, in
July and August 1999, and the United Nations later agreed to send peace monitors
and protecting troops, in a force known as MONUC, to assist in the peace process.
Deployment was slow, but the assassination of President Laurent Kabila on January
16, 2001, was followed by progress in the peace process under a new regime headed
by Joseph Kabila, Laurent’s son. On June 15, 2001, the U.N. Security Council
approved plans to expand MONUC to its authorized level of 5,537 personnel.
Recent instability in Congo has been rooted in ethnic and political unrest in the
eastern part of the country, and also in the fact that guerrillas seeking the overthrow
of the governments of Rwanda and Uganda are based in the east. Both countries
have sent troops into Congo, and have allied themselves to rebel groups opposed to
the Congo government. Some reports indicate that interests in both countries are
exploiting Congo’s rich resources of timber, gold, and diamonds. Burundi is also
fighting Burundi guerrillas based in Congo.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has deployed more than 11,000 troops to
back the Congo government, and reports allege that Zimbabwe interests are also
profiting from Congo’s resources. Angola also backs Congo government, evidently
in the hope that this will help prevent UNITA, the Angolan armed opposition
movement, from using bases in Congo.
The 1996-1997 rebellion began in eastern Zaire, but won broad support due to
high poverty levels and dissatisfaction with the regime of President Mobutu Sese
Seko, who had ruled since 1965. Rwanda, which had suffered an anti-Tutsi genocide
in 1994, supported the rebellion, and broke up large Hutu refugee camps in eastern
Zaire. These camps had been sheltering Hutu militants who were staging incursions
into Rwanda. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila took power in May 1997, and suspended
the activities of all political parties, except for his Alliance of Democratic Forces for
the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL). Human rights activists maintain that he
suppressed dissent in an attempt to hold onto power indefinitely. Kabila showed
considerable distrust of the western donor community, which pressed for
democratization, and this sharply limited aid inflows. Upon Mobutu’s death in
September 1997, Congo was left with a $14 billion foreign debt.
Congo was ill-prepared for independence in 1960; its first civil war broke out
almost immediately, leading to U.N. intervention. U.S. policymakers took a strong
interest in Zaire during the Cold War years because of its resources and central
location, but relations with Mobutu cooled in the post-Cold War era. Policymakers
initially welcomed Laurent Kabila’s pledge of elections in 2 years, but problems in
democratization and economic reform complicated relations. A limited aid program
focusing on democracy, health, the private sector, and the environment was resumed.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has urged all parties to respect the Lusaka agreement
and said he is “cautiously optimistic” about implementation.
In troduction ......................................................1
Political Change after 1990......................................3
Zaire’s 1996-1997 Civil War.........................................4
Second Congo Civil War............................................6
Rebellion in the East.......................................7
The RCD and MLC........................................9
Congo Peace Process..............................................10
Implementing the Lusaka Agreement.............................10
Cease-fire and Disengagement...............................11
Joint Military Commission.................................11
Withdrawal of Foreign Forces...............................12
United Nations Force......................................13
Prospects for the Future............................................17
Appendix 1. Democratic Republic of the Congo........................22
Appendix 2. Acronyms............................................23
Democratic Republic of the Congo:
Peace Process and Background
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or DROC), formerly Zaire, is a
vast, resource-rich country at the heart of Central Africa. It borders nine other
countries, and events there can have an impact over much of the sub-Saharan region.
Secure transport on the Congo River, as well as potential road and rail routes across
Congo, could be a great economic boon to the region, and Congo could be an
important market for neighboring states. As recently as the 1980s, Zaire was the
world’s largest producer of cobalt and a leading producer of industrial diamonds as
well as copper. It has petroleum deposits, much good farmland, and great
Despite its potential, Congo today is experiencing grave political and economic
problems, following major upheaval in 1996-1997, and again in 1998-1999. Troops1
from five African countries are present in Congo, and large parts of the east and
north of the country are held by rebel groups. Armed militias also roam the east,
where civilian populations are suffering from prolonged instability and civil strife,
and human rights violations are common. Thus, some analysts fear a renewal of
widespread armed conflict in Congo, civil war, and a possible breakup of the country.
Others, however, are encouraged by slow progress in the Congo peace process,
which began in July/August 1999, and accelerated after the assassination of Congo
President Laurent Kabila on January 16, 2001. United Nations Secretary General
Kofi Annan, speaking to the Security Council on July 24, 2001, noted that the 6-
month old Congo ceasefire was holding, despite some allegations of violations that
were under investigation; that most armed forces in Congo had disengaged in
accordance with a U.N.-supported disengagement plan; and that the U.N.
peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUC, had developed a positive working
relationship with the Congo government. However, the Secretary General himself
remained cautious about the prospects for long-term peace in Congo, pointing out
that “we are still far from the point in the DRC where the peace process is
The purpose of this report is to review the status of the DRC peace process,
provide background on recent conflicts in the Congo; briefly summarize the political
history that led to these conflicts; and assess prospects for the future. U.S. Congo
policy and congressional involvement are also described.
1Details are provided below. Troops from a sixth country, Burundi, may also be present in
the east, but information on this is sketchy.
Congo’s difficulties today result in part from the stunning rate of change it has
confronted over a short span of history. In 1930, Congo was a rural, peasant-based
society under the control of a tiny elite of Belgian bureaucrats assisted by a few
senior Congolese clerks and a sometimes brutal colonial police force. Today, the
country has a sprawling capital of five to eight million inhabitants, an overall
population of nearly 50 million (up from 20 million in 1970), and a complex social
structure that includes a kaleidoscope of conflicting ethnic loyalties as well as sharp
economic and social class divisions.2
Congo has posed challenges for the broader international system for more than
a century. The Conference of Berlin (1884-1885) accepted the claims of Belgian
King Léopold II to this sprawling territory of diverse peoples and many languages in
order to stave off a destabilizing scramble for the region among Europe’s great
powers. The brutal repression, mutilations, and forced labor characteristic of
Léopold’s rule were exposed by human rights activists and missionaries at the turn
of the century, and the situation in the Congo became an international scandal.3 In
1908, the Belgian parliament voted to remove the colony from Léopold’s personal
control and make it a Belgian colony. Belgium adopted a highly paternalistic style
of rule, treating Congolese as incapable of self-government. Reportedly, when
independence came in 1960, not one Congo citizen had received a university degree.
Political parties only began to emerge in the 1950's, and according to a leading
authority, “Large-scale contact with the outside world dates only from the Brussels
Exposition (World Fair) of 1958, where several hundred Congolese were brought to
Belgium as showpieces for the Congolese pavilion.”4
Congo’s initial upheaval broke out in July 1960, just after independence. The
Belgian government had agreed to set a date for independence only in January, finally
acknowledging that a small European country could not hope to maintain a large
colony in Africa in the face of rising nationalism around the continent. Nonetheless,
Belgian officers attempted to retain control of the Congolese army after
independence, leading to a mutiny and attacks on Europeans. A United Nations
peacekeeping force intervened in the resulting unrest in an effort to prevent the
situation from becoming a Cold War crisis. In fact, however, Congo did become a
major Cold War issue after Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, who enjoyed the
sympathy and backing of the Soviet Union, was killed in 1961. The Soviets halted
their contributions to U.N. peacekeeping, leading to a financial crisis that crippled
the United Nations for years. Dag Hammarskjold, who had shown himself to be a
strong and effective U.N. Secretary General, was killed in a suspicious plane crash
2 Crawford Young and Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairian State
(Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press,1985), p. 79.
3Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost (Boston, New York: Houghton-Mifflin,
4Crawford Young, Politics in the Congo, Decolonization and Independence
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), p. 280-281.
as he flew to negotiations on an end to the secession of rebellious southeastern
province of Katanga (Shaba).
The U.N. force withdrew in 1964, leaving the country united, but politically
unsettled and facing continued secessionist threats in key regions. In November 1965,
General Joseph Mobutu, a former journalist who had risen to command the armed
forces, seized power in a bloodless coup. The coup won ready acceptance in western
capitals, where Mobutu already had many advocates, because of concern that the
civilian regime was moving to the left. Over the next few years, Mobutu managed
to neutralize his political opposition, thwart secessionist tendencies in key regions,
and consolidate his power base. His methods, which included the arrest and
humiliation of former allies and the elimination of independent labor unions, were
authoritarian but not unusual among Third World countries at that time.
In the 1970s, however, Mobutu began a series of disruptive political and
economic initiatives that brought a prolonged decline in the nation’s fortunes —
leading to eventual economic collapse and finally to the political crisis of 1991. His
“authenticity” campaign, launched in 1971, in addition to requiring Zairians to
abandon western styles of dress, included banning Christian forenames and
prohibiting religious broadcasts. Mobutu himself adopted a series of honorific titles,
such as Guide, Helmsman, and Father of the Nation. At the end of 1973, he launched
his “Zairianization” campaign for the economy, which resulted in the seizure of
foreign-owned properties and their redistribution to Mobutu loyalists. Many of the
extreme measures undertaken by Mobutu in the first half of the 1970s had to be eased
or retracted in subsequent years. But the confidence of foreign investors and lenders
had been badly shaken, and the economy never recovered. A long era of negative
growth set in, worsened by low world prices for copper, the high cost of oil imports,
and what analysts described as pervasive corruption. Nonetheless, some observers
credited Mobutu’s policies with maintaining stability and minimizing ethnic conflict.
Critics argued, however, that in stifling political dissent and impoverishing Zaire’s
people, Mobutu was only bottling up resentments that were bound to explode at some
Political Change after 1990
Mobutu’s political position deteriorated sharply in 1990, as domestic and
international pressures forced him into major policy changes and concessions. The
denouement of the Cold War reduced the incentives for western governments to offer
him political or economic support. Meanwhile, the Union for Democracy and Social
Progress (UDPS), headed by Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, joined with student groups to
mount a series of protests and demonstrations. Police and military repression of
these protests brought fresh international criticism.
In 1990, Mobutu finally accepted the creation of a full multi-party system in
principle. The continued deterioration of the economy, however, was adding fuel to
popular anger, and large demonstrations broke out. In April 1991, Mobutu acceded
to a key opposition demand by announcing that a national political conference would
be convened. The Sovereign National Conference finally began its work in April
1992, and a long contest for
DRC In Briefpower with Mobutu ensued.
Area: more than one-fourth the United StatesBut while Kinshasa politicianswere pre-occupied with this
Population: 49.8 million (1999 est.)power struggle, the power ofthe central government was
Growth rate: 3.2% (1997 est.)
declining, contributing to
Independence: June 30, 1960, from Belgium concerns over the possible
breakup of Zaire. East Kasai
GDP: $6.6 billion (1999 est.)and its capital, Mbuji-Mayi,
Per capita : $110 (1998 est.)experienced relative prosperity
based on a black market
Real GDP Growth: -8% (annual average, 1988-diamond industry. Investments
1999)by South African companies
Ethnic groups: more than 200helped to re-orient theeconomy of mineral-rich
Religions: Roman Catholic, 50%; Protestant, 20%;Shaba province toward
Kimbanguist (syncretic), 10%; Moslem 10%English-speaking southern
Africa rather than Kinshasa.
Sources: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, World
Factbook; World Bank, AfricanDespite growing
regionalism, some observers
were encouraged during the
mid-1990s by the emergence of a civil society in Zaire, centered around churches
and non-governmental organizations. Student groups, human rights organizations,
and political parties were increasingly effective and typically led by articulate,
outspoken individuals. With a loosening of economic controls, the private enterprise
sector grew stronger, although major business figures tended to be closely connected
Zaire’s 1996-1997 Civil War
Zaire seemed to be entering a new era on May 17, 1997, when troops of the
Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), swept into
Kinshasa, the capital. AFDL leader Laurent Kabila immediately renamed the
country the Democratic Republic of the Congo, declared himself president, and was
formally sworn into office, with sweeping powers, on May 29, 1997. Mobutu Sese
Seko, who had given Congo the unpopular name of “Zaire,” fled the country, dying
in exile in Morocco on September 7, 1997.
Kabila had managed to conquer a country nearly as large as the European Union
in just 7 months. The takeover was made possible in part by the refusal of the
rarely-paid Zairian army to fight and the lack of support for Mobutu among the
Zairian people. President Mobutu was gravely ill with prostate cancer and unable to
make critical military and political decisions, and his troops retreated, looting as they
But the key factor in Kabila’s victory was the support he received from
neighboring states, particularly Rwanda. In a July 9, 1997, Washington Post
interview, Paul Kagame, now Rwanda’s president, claimed that his government had
planned and carried out the overthrow of Mobutu, sending soldiers and officers to
participate in the fighting. It is generally believed that Uganda, anxious to bring
Uganda rebel groups operating along the Congo border under control, also played a
role in supporting the rebels. Angola is thought to have backed them as well because
it resented the covert aid, shelter, and political support Mobutu gave over many years
to the UNITA opposition movement in Angola. UNITA meanwhile, was widely
reported to have aided Mobutu.
Armed conflict first broke out in South Kivu province in mid-October 1996
between the army and indigenous ethnic Tutsi — a group found primarily in
neighboring Rwanda and Burundi, where Tutsi minorities dominate government and
the armed forces. Known as the Banyamulenge, the South Kivu Tutsi are Congolese
descendants of herders who came to the area as long as 200 years ago and may
number 300,000 to 400,000 or more today. They had been targets of increasing local
resentment arising from ethnic differences and economic grievances, and the Mobutu
regime was intensifying an effort to deprive them of their citizenship. In October
1996, Tutsi in South Kivu were ordered to leave by the region’s deputy governor, but
Tutsi guerrillas, some of whom may have had experience in the Rwanda civil war,
fought back with surprising effectiveness. In North Kivu, other Tutsi guerrillas,
acting in alliance with local, non-Tutsi militia, completed the capture of Goma. Tutsi
had first arrived in North Kivu during the colonial period. Tutsi rebels were
motivated in part by anger over a local anti-Tutsi campaign, beginning in 1993, that
had displaced large numbers of their people and reportedly killed thousands.
Ethnic tensions in eastern Zaire had been gravely exacerbated by the July 1994
arrival in eastern Zaire of an estimated 1.2 million Hutu refugees from Rwanda. The
Hutu, traditional rivals5 of the Tutsi, had fled Rwanda as the Tutsi-dominated
Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was consolidating its conquest of Rwanda. The RPF
had been provoked into a military offensive in April 1994, when Hutu militants,6
including armed bands known as Interahamwe, launched an anti-Tutsi genocide.
When the Zaire rebellion broke out, Goma was surrounded by Hutu refugee camps
housing 700,000 people or more, and there were Hutu refugees in other locations as
Interahamwe and ex-FAR at the camps, as well as former Rwanda government
officials, were widely suspected of intimidating civilian refugees to prevent them
from returning to Rwanda. These Hutu militants were also thought to have organized
armed incursions back into Rwanda and to be preparing for an attempt to retake the
country. Rwandan authorities demanded that the international community take steps
to curb their activities, but nothing was done. The initial Tutsi victories exposed the
weakness of the Mobutu regime, and the rebellion broadened with the early and
unexpected emergence of the AFDL, uniting the Tutsi groups with other Zaire
5Whether Hutu and Tutsi were rivals in pre-colonial times, or became rivals due to the
policies of colonial rulers, is a subject of debate among historians.
6Some translate “Interahamwe” as “those who fight together,” though others argue that it
means simply “those of a common age who get on well with one another.”
Laurent Kabila, the AFDL
leader, had been born in 1939 and
Tutsi and Hutuwas from a group known as the
“Balubakat.” These are Luba
Rwanda: Tutsi, 15% of population; Hutu, 84%.people, originally from the Kasais,
Tutsi dominate government and army. Hutuwho settled in Katanga Province
dominated until 1994, when a Tutsi armed force(renamed Shaba Province during
seized power in reaction to an anti-Tutsi
genocide.the Mobutu period) in search of
economic opportunities during the
Congo: 300,000-400,000 Tutsi settlers in Southcolonial era. Kabila was a veteran
Kivu; other Tutsi in North Kivu; Hutu farmersof previous revolutionary struggles,
of long residence in eastern Congo; thousandsand worked with Cuban
of Hutu militants who fled Rwanda after therevolutionary Che Guevara when
1994 events.Che was supporting a revolution in
Burundi: Tutsi, 14% of population; Hutu, 85%.eastern Zaire in the mid-1960s.Kabila’s Party of the Popular
Tutsi, concentrated in capital, dominateRevolution (PRP) survived for
government and the army. A prolonged peace
process has not ended a violent ethnic conflict.years in the mountains around
Hutu rebels are believed to shelter in Congo,Uvira, near Burundi, and originally
provoking cross-border operations by thehad a Marxist orientation. In 1975,
Burundi army.Kabila guerrillas crossed Lake
Tanganyika and kidnaped one
Sources include CIA World Factbook, press accounts,Dutch and three American students
standard reference sources.working at the chimpanzee study
center run by British naturalist Jane
Goodall. Held under harsh conditions before they were ransomed, the four victims
remained bitter toward Kabila. They wrote then Secretary of State Albright on May
23, 1997, asking the Clinton Administration to confront the rebel leader about his
record of “kidnaping, slavery, and terrorism.”7
Second Congo Civil War
In a May 17, 1998 speech commemorating the anniversary of the revolution,
Laurent Kabila claimed credit for ending the looting and intimidation practiced by
Mobutu’s soldiers, stabilizing the country’s currency, and dealing with underlying
social problems, such as tribalism. Observers generally agreed that the security
situation had indeed improved, except in eastern Congo. Inflation had been reduced,
and in June 1998, the government launched a new currency, the Congolese franc.
Kabila seemed to enjoy broad public support in recognition of his success in ousting
Mobutu, even if he was not deeply popular everywhere. Some sensed that Congo’s
sense of national unity seemed stronger as well.
Yet Congo was still a deeply troubled nation, and the situation soon deteriorated
further. Government authority was weak even in regions ostensibly under Kabila’s
control, and civil servants were paid irregularly, just as in the Mobutu era. The
Kabila regime was probably obtaining some financial backing from contracts with
foreign mining firms but failed to attract the large-scale foreign investment needed
7Washington Post (October 25, 1997).
to spark an economic recovery.
Alignment of Forces in Congo Political uncertainties, erratic
behavior toward particular
Government aligned: armed forces of theforeign firms, rapid inflation,
DRC, Interahamwe, ex-FAR, and Mai-Mai, asand the absence of a legal
well as troops from Angola, Zimbabwe, andregime governing business
Namibia.affairs were particular
problems. In September 1999,
Rwanda aligned: Rwanda troops deployed inKabila closed all foreign
Congo; RCD-Goma, now headed by Adolpheexchange offices and imposed a
Onusumba Yemba.$500,000 fee, termed a financial
guarantee, on all foreigners
Uganda aligned: Uganda troops in Congo;engaged in commercial
Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC and the FLC, whichactivities. Fuel prices nearly
he also heads; Wamba dia Wamba’s RCDtripled in June 2000, following
faction, known as RCD-Kisangani, nowa 60% devaluation in the
believed to be severely weakened.Congolese franc. Congo’s
relations with the donor
See text and Appendix 2, List of Acronyms, forcommunity and non-
further details.governmental organizations
were seriously strained over
issues related to
democratization, human rights, and economic reform.
Rebellion in the East. The unsettled eastern Congo, particularly North Kivu
and South Kivu provinces, remained torn by violence and highly unstable. Ex-
soldiers from Mobutu’s army (“ex-FAZ”) operated in the area, along with
Interahamwe, ex-FAR, Hutu rebels from Burundi, and Ugandan rebels. The
governments of Rwanda and Burundi, dominated by individuals of the Tutsi ethnic
group, wanted to prevent incursions by Hutu militants from Congo into their
countries, and leaders probably also sympathized with persecuted Tutsi living in
Congo. “Mai Mai,” indigenous guerrillas in eastern Congo, known for their
supposed belief that water and amulets can shield them from bullets, are strongly
anti-Tutsi and are a major factor in the unrest in the east, as are the Bembe people of
South Kivu, who have long resented Tutsi settlers.
In supporting Kabila during the 1996-1997 Congo revolution, Rwanda had
expected that once in power, he would cooperate with Rwanda in controlling the
Hutu militants in eastern Congo. President Kabila, however, found he had to cope
with the unpopularity of Tutsi troops, many of them child soldiers, in Kinshasa,
where they were widely viewed as arrogant foreigners. There was also popular
resentment of Tutsi who held influential positions in his government and party.
Kabila himself seemed to grow increasingly suspicious of his Tutsi lieutenants.
A July 27, 1998 Congolese government announcement that the presence of
Rwandan soldiers in Congo had been “terminated” seemed to trigger the outbreak of
the new rebellion. Whether the rebellion had been planned long in advance or came
about spontaneously remains a subject of speculation, but on August 2, 1998, the
Tenth Battalion of the Congolese army, based at Goma in North Kivu, broadcast a
communique accusing Kabila of corruption and nepotism and stating that the army
had decided to remove him from power. Organizing themselves as the Congolese
Democratic Rally (or Party, RCD), the rebels swiftly seized major towns in eastern
Congo, including Goma, on the Rwanda border, which became their capital. In a
surprise strategic move, rebel troops were flown to western Congo and seized the
military base and airfield at Kitona. Rebels soon gained control of Congo’s seaports
and a hydroelectric dam supplying Kinshasa, a city of 5 million people. Periodic
blackouts ensued as rebels predicted the fall of Kinshasa by the end of August.
In mid-August 1998, the armies of Zimbabwe and Angola came to Kabila’s aid,
breaking the siege of Kinshasa and eventually stabilizing the military situation.
Today, rebel forces and their foreign supporters hold roughly the eastern third of the
country along a line running roughly from somewhere south of Zongo in the
northwest to the northeastern part of Katanga (Shaba) province.
Foreign Involvement. The second Congo rebellion was clearly backed by
Uganda and Rwanda from the outset. By November 1998, Rwanda was openly
acknowledging that it had troops in Congo to protect itself from Congo-based Hutu
militants, and Uganda also admitted sending troops into Congo for national security
reasons. Some observers suspect that Uganda and Rwanda had acquired territorial
ambitions in Congo and of wanting to retain the ability to exploit the eastern region’s
resources — charges both countries deny. However, repeated clashes in 1999 and
rich region, lent credence to the view that the two erstwhile allies were actually rivals
for Congo’s riches. The clashes, which killed hundreds of civilians and brought
heavy international condemnation, came to an end in June 2000, when the two
countries agreed to withdraw their forces from Kisangani. In South Kivu,
meanwhile, troops from the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army were reportedly
conducting operations within Congo against Burundi Hutu rebels.
Under Kabila, Congo had joined the Southern African Development Community
(SADC), and this move proved crucial in winning support against the rebellion. The
head of SADC’s security organ, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, became an
advocate of SADC armed intervention on Kabila’s behalf. Analysts speculate that
Mugabe saw a chance in the Congo crisis to restore his reputation as a key African
leader and to reduce what he may see as the undue regional influence enjoyed by
South Africa. Angola also favored backing the Kabila government, betting that
Kabila would help prevent Congo from being used as a rear base by the armed
Angolan opposition force known as UNITA. The thousands of exiled Hutu militants
from Rwanda, including Interahamwe and ex-FAR, also joined the fight on Kabila’s
Today, news reports estimate the number of Zimbabwe troops in Congo at
11,000 or more. There have been protests in Harare, the Zimbabwe capital, against
this deployment, and Zimbabwe’s troops are believed to have suffered a number of
casualties. IMF and World Bank lending to Zimbabwe is suspended, in part because
of concerns the two multilateral lenders have over Zimbabwe spending in Congo.
(See CRS Issue Brief IB10059, Zimbabwe: Current Issues.) In July 2001, Zimbabwe
and Congo reportedly signed an agreement to establish a joint economic commission
in order to deepen cooperation between the two countries.
A United Nations Security Council report released on April 16, 2001
(S/2001/357), provided detailed information on what it charged was illegal
exploitation of Congo’s resources, including timber and diamonds, as well as
massive looting of coffee and other goods, by rebel forces, Uganda, and Rwanda.
Those criticized denied the charges and maintained that the report was one-sided in
that it failed to report on exploitation of Congo resources by Zimbabwe, Angola, and
Namibia. Zimbabwe business interests have reportedly been active in Congo; and
in June 2000, there were reports that a Zimbabwe-linked company had been formed
to mine diamonds around Mbuji Mayi. Namibia acknowledged in February 2001,
that it had acquired an interest in a diamond mine in Congo near Tshikapa, close to
the Angolan border.
There have been some reports of a North Korean presence at an abandoned8
uranium mine in Congo. Firm evidence to substantiate these reports appears to be
lacking, however; nor is there clear confirmation of reports of large shipments of
weapons from China to the Congo army.
The RCD and MLC. The principal rebel movement in eastern Congo is the
Goma-based RCD, known as RCD-Goma. Despite the strong support it receives
from Rwanda, it has a civilian, Congolese leadership core that includes individuals
from around the country. Until he was ousted on May 17, 1999, the RCD president
or “co-ordinator” was Wamba dia Wamba, who is from the lower Congo region in
western Congo. Wamba had been a professor in Tanzania, and was reportedly a
friend of the late former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere. Jailed for a time
during the Mobutu era for conducting research in Zaire, he was active in the
Sovereign National Conference in the early 1990s. Wamba, supported by Uganda,
has kept control of the smaller RCD faction, but this group has been weakened by
internal rivalries and ethnic strife around its base at Bunia, close to the Uganda
Emile Ilunga, who initially replaced Wamba as head of the main body of the
RCD, is a Katangan formerly associated with a Katanga separatist movement based
in Angola. A physician, Ilunga has reportedly practiced in Belgium and spent time
in South Africa. In October 2000, Ilunga acknowledged mistakes of leadership and
resigned in favor of Adolphe Onusumba Yemba, known as Onusumba, who is
reportedly from the Kasai region and considerably younger than Ilunga. RCD leaders
say the movement seeks a multiparty, federal system.
Another rebel group, the Uganda-backed Movement for the Liberation of the
Congo (MLC), emerged in northwestern Congo in November 1998. In January 2001,
the MLC merged with a splinter of the Wamba RCD faction, not including Wamba,
becoming the Front for the Liberation of the Congo (FLC). The MLC/FLC is led
by Jean-Pierre Bemba, whose family was closely allied to Mobutu, and is believed
to include former members of Mobutu’s Presidential Guard. The MLC holds
Gbadolite, a former Mobutu stronghold, and has repeatedly threatened the Congo
River port of Mbandaka. The capture of Mbandaka, analysts believe, would
endanger Kinshasa, the capital, since no natural obstacles or major towns lie between
the two cities.
8 The Times, London (October 12, 1999); Sunday Telegraph, London (January 16,
Congo Peace Process
The DRC peace process now underway originated in a 1999 initiative led by
President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia, acting on behalf of the Organization of
African Unity (OAU) and SADC. On July 10, 1999, at a regional summit in
Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, leaders of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Rwanda,
and Uganda signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, as the Congo peace accord is
known, following difficult negotiations. The rebel groups in Congo did not sign the
accord until August 1999 due to factional disputes. Those finally signing included
Emile Ilunga, then leader of the RCD-Goma; Wamba dia Wamba; and Jean-Pierre
Implementing the Lusaka Agreement
The implementation of the Lusaka Cease-Fire Agreement has been subject to
repeated delays due to outbreaks of fighting and the apparent reluctance of key actors
to move forward. Many of the delays resulted from a lack of cooperation on the part
of Laurent Kabila, the late Congo president, with the United Nations. However, with
the January 2001 assassination of Kabila, which remains a mystery as far as the
outside world is concerned,9 significant progress began to occur.
Laurent Kabila was succeeded by his little-known son, Joseph Kabila, who was
sworn in as president on January 27, 2001. The new president immediately
undertook a four-day foreign trip apparently aimed at reviving the peace process.
Joseph Kabila met with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on February
1. At the United Nations on February 2, Kabila said that he was willing to begin a
dialogue with his military and political enemies and urged them to reciprocate.
Kabila announced on February 15 that his government would resume cooperation
with Sir Ketumile Masire, former president of Botswana and U.N.-appointed
facilitator of the domestic political dialogue. Shortly thereafter, both Rwanda and
Uganda announced partial troop withdrawal plans.
Cease-fire and Disengagement. The Lusaka agreement called for a cease-
fire within 24 hours, and the immediate disengagement of forces in areas where they
were in direct contact. However, there were many subsequent outbreaks of fighting
punctuated by efforts of diplomats to establish a genuine halt to hostilities. On April
8, 2000, the Lusaka parties, meeting in Kampala, Uganda, agreed to a new cease-fire
to take effect on April 14, but this was respected only briefly. In late 2000,
substantial fighting occurred in the northwest, around Mbandaka, and in Katanga
(Shaba) province, where Rwanda-backed RCD forces made gains around Lake
Mweru. Nonetheless, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, in his December 6, 2000
report to the Security Council (S/2000/1156), said that there was “substantial
9It is generally accepted that Laurent Kabila was shot by a bodyguard, but whether the
killing was part of a larger conspiracy remains unclear. In May 2001, a Joseph Kabila-
appointed commission reported that Rwanda and Uganda were behind the killing, and the
governments of both countries immediately rejected the charge. A large number of suspects
are reportedly in jail in Kinshasa on suspicion of involvement in the assassination.
compliance with the cease-fire in most parts” of the DRC. This compliance seems
to have deepened since the death of Laurent Kabila.
There has also been substantial progress on the disengagement of forces since
Laurent Kabila’s death. In December 2000, the rebel groups and contending armies
had met in Harare, Zimbabwe, and agreed to a 15-kilometer pullback of forces along
the front lines. The pullback was to occur over 2 weeks, beginning January 21, 2001,
but by February nothing had happened. On February 22, 2001, the United Nations
Security Council, after a three-day meeting on the Congo conflict, passed resolution
1341, demanding that the parties begin the pullback by March 15. Secretary General
Annan reported in April that some withdrawals had begun,10 and by June, he was
expressing satisfaction with withdrawals everywhere except Equateur province,
where Bemba’s FLC remained in place. The FLC claimed that it’s forces were
required to protect the civilian population in occupied areas.
In June 2001, the Secretary General noted some evidence for FLC
withdrawals,11 but subsequent reports indicate that the FLC continues to occupy
positions which it had been expected to leave. Moreover, on July 24, 2001 the
Security Council stated that it was “unacceptable”12 that RCD-Goma troops remained
in the northeastern city of Kisangani more than a year after the Council had
demanded the complete demilitarization of the city.13 The resolution had been passed
after repeated outbreaks of fighting in the city (see below).
Joint Military Commission. The Lusaka accord called for the creation of
a Joint Military Commission (JMC), including representatives of the signatories and
a neutral chairman, within one week. The responsibilities of the commission were
to include the investigation of cease-fire violations and the development of
mechanisms to disarm militia groups in Congo. Unable to carry out these functions
due to the unsettled conditions in Congo, the JMC has focused on drawing up
disengagement and redeployment plans for the Congo combatants. At an April 6,
demobilization, and reintegration, also referred to as DDR, of armed groups in
Congo. (Additional “Rs,” standing for resettlement and repatriation, are at times
added to DDR, forming the acronym DDRRR.)
Withdrawal of Foreign Forces. Under the Lusaka agreement, all foreign
forces, apart from peacekeepers, were to withdraw from Congo within 9 months,
according to a timetable to be worked out by the U.N., the OAU, and the JMC. For
many months, there was no sign of progress on this aspect of the agreement, but in
July 2000, Uganda began to bring home 3,000 to 4,000 troops that had been based
10United Nations Security Council, “Seventh Report of the Secretary General of the United
Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” U.N. Document
S/2001/273 (April 17, 2001).
11United Nations Security Council, “Eighth Report of the Secretary General,” U.N.
Document S/2001/572 (June 8, 2001).
12Presidential Statement, U.N. Press Release SC/7105 (July 24, 2001).
13Security Council Resolution 1304 of June 15, 2000. The resolution came after repeated
outbreaks of fighting in the city. See below.
in Kisangani. The withdrawal came after Rwanda and Uganda had mutually agreed
to pull their forces out of Kisangani and may reflect growing dissatisfaction within
Uganda with the costly Congo deployment. Both Uganda and Rwanda maintain that
they have intervened in Congo to protect their countries from incursions by Congo-
based rebel groups, and that they cannot withdraw entirely until eastern Congo has
been stabilized. On June 16, 2000, however, the United Nations Security Council
unanimously adopted Resolution 1304, which demanded that Uganda and Rwanda
withdraw all their forces from Congo “without further delay.” South African
President Thabo Mbeki convened a regional mini-summit at Maputo, Mozambique,
on October 16, 2000, and leaders of the DRC, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda,
Uganda, and Zimbabwe agreed that armed forces in the DRC should begin to
disengage. The December 2000 meeting of defense chiefs in Harare developed plans
for the pullback of foreign forces and rebel groups.
Laurent Kabila’s death seemed to accelerate progress on foreign troop
withdrawals. Rwanda announced on February 21, 2001, that it would pull its troops
back 200 kilometers to the east. That same day, Uganda announced that it would
withdraw two battalions, while on April 7, Zimbabwe said it would withdraw 5,000
troops from Congo in the immediate future. Secretary General Annan, in his June
2001 report on the Congo situation, noted that MONUC had monitored withdrawals
by Ugandan and Zimbabwe troops from several locations.
However, the complete withdrawal of foreign forces seems unlikely in the near
future, particularly in view of the refusal of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to pull
out his troops before armed groups in eastern Congo are brought under control. He
told a visiting U.N. Security Council delegation in May 2001, that Rwanda would not
withdraw while Interahamwe and ex-FAR remained active in Congo and a threat to14
Rwanda itself. Angolan and Zimbabwe troops protecting the Kabila government
will probably not leave Congo while Rwandan troops remain. Burundi, which is also
under threat from Hutu militants based in Congo, is believed to still have some troops
in Congo, although their number is uncertain. It too may be reluctant to withdraw
until the armed groups are brought under control. Namibia, however, has said that
it will withdraw completely from Congo by the end of August 2001, and half of its
Armed Groups. The Lusaka agreement committed all parties to locate and
disarm militias and other irregular armed groups, and provided that U.N.
peacekeepers were responsible for “tracking down and disarming” armed groups as
well. No progress has been reported on this aspect of the agreement. Indeed,
Rwanda has charged that the Congo government is equipping the armed groups, and
that their activities are intensifying rather than declining. The groups at issue include
the Interahamwe, the ex-FAR, and the Mai-Mai, which are threats to Tutsi residents
of Congo – and in the cases of Interahamwe and ex-Far, threats to Rwanda as well.
A U.S. diplomat participating in a July 24, 2001 Security Council debate on Congo
confirmed that the Congo government was arming the Interahamwe and the ex-Far,
and that as long as this continued, there could be no disarmament, demobilization,
14“President Kagame Accuses U.N. of ‘Lacking Political Will,’” BBC (May 25, 2001).
and reintegration.15 The Congo government denies aiding either of these groups, and
also maintains that the Mai-Mai should not be regarded as an “armed group” within
the terms of the Lusaka agreement since it consists of Congolese citizens resisting16
Rwandan occupation of eastern Congo.
Political Dialogue. Within 45 days, under the Lusaka agreement, the Congo
government was to enter into a dialogue with the RCD, as well as domestic
opposition groups and civil society, on the country’s future. After six weeks of
dialogue, there was to be agreement on new national political arrangements. The first
sign of progress on the dialogue appeared on December 14, 1999, when the Congo
parties agreed that the former president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire, should
serve as a neutral facilitator. The Laurent Kabila government was soon accusing
Masire of being biased against it, however, and in June 2000, it briefly sealed his
office. Laurent Kabila unilaterally appointed a “transition” parliament of 300
members, which convened in August 2000 at Lubumbashi, capital of Katanga
province. Joseph Kabila, however, has resumed cooperation with Masire, who is
again actively mediating with the aim of convening an “inter-Congolese dialogue”
– although some observers maintain that he is moving too slowly. A Declaration of
Principles for the conduct of the dialogue was signed in Lusaka on May 17, 2001,
and Masire announced that he would convene a preparatory meeting on July 16. This
meeting was subsequently postponed until August 20.
United Nations Force. According to the Lusaka agreement, the United
Nations Security Council, in collaboration with the Organization of African Unity
(OAU), was to deploy a large force to Congo in order to ensure implementation of
the accord and provide humanitarian assistance to civilians. This did not happen
initially because the United States and other likely sponsors of such a force were
wary of a prolonged and expensive entanglement with an uncertain mandate. They
were also concerned about the potential for violence, since the cease-fire was not
On August 6, 1999, however, U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1258,
authorizing Phase I of MONUC, a scaled-down deployment of 90 U.N. military
liaison personnel for three months to assist the JMC and report back to the Secretary
General on the situation. In a January 17, 2000 report (S/2000/30), the Secretary
General proposed expanding MONUC to a “Phase II” force of 5,537 personnel –
consisting of 500 observers to be protected by the remainder of the force. On
February 24, 2000, the Security Council endorsed this proposal in Resolution 1291
but emphasized that actual deployment would be based on the assumption that parties
to the Lusaka accord respect the cease-fire. MONUC is to monitor implementation
of the cease-fire, investigate violations, and supervise and verify the disengagement
of forces. At the same time, it is to facilitate humanitarian assistance and human
rights monitoring, support the national dialogue, and launch a survey of landmines
and unexploded ordinance.
The Secretary General’s initial reports to the Security Council on MONUC
deployment consistently complained of obstacles created by the Laurent Kabila
15U.N. Security Council press release, United Nations Document SC/7105 (July 24, 2001).
16Eighth Report of the Secretary General.
government and rebel forces that have denied full freedom of movement to MONUC
personnel. As a result of the many problems encountered, only 224 liaison officers
and military observers had been sent to Congo by December 1, 2000, although the
U.N. had succeeded in deploying liaison officers at the headquarters of each rebel
group and at several other key locations, such as Mbandaka.
In his December 6, 2000 report, the Secretary General stated that the Congo
government had been showing a “more positive attitude” and was relaxing some
restrictions on MONUC. With Laurent Kabila’s death and subsequent progress in
Lusaka implementation, the United Nations has been able to increase the number of
peacekeepers for its scaled down, 3,000 member force. By June 8, 2001, 363
military observers had been deployed, supported by 1,869 troops and 134 staff
officers, for a total deployment of 2,366. MONUC was focusing on verifying
promised redeployments by the armed forces of the contending parties.
In his reports to the Security Council, Secretary General Annan has referred to
the eventual need to deploy a larger, Phase III MONUC operation, which would have
three tasks: the accomplishment of the withdrawal of all foreign forces, securing the
borders of the DRC, and the DDRRR of armed groups.17 The Secretary General
proposed in his June 8, 2001 report to begin the transition to Phase III while
remaining within the authorized MONUC ceiling of 5,537 personnel. He
recommended adding additional troops, additional civilian staff to help with
administration and humanitarian tasks, and the creation of a civilian police
component. On June 15, the Security Council approved this “updated concept of
operations” under Resolution 1355. Estimates of the scale of any Phase III
deployment have typically ranged between 10,000 and 25,000. However, on July
12, 2001, Brookings Institution scholar Michael O’Hanlon testified before the House
International Relations Committee that “a serious mission in Congo could easily
require 100,000 troops” in view of the country’s size, its challenging topography, and
its large population. A U.N. force deployed in Congo from 1960-1964 reached
nearly 20,000 troops and incurred 250 fatalities, including accidental and natural
deaths as well as 126 deaths in combat.
17Report to the Security Council, S/2001/373 (April 17, 2001), 14.
After his 1997 takeover, Laurent Kabila promised elections by April 1999, but
later said these could not be held until the rebellion ended. A draft constitution
provided for a strong presidency, although there was also to be a bicameral
parliament. Opposition figures suspected that Kabila would try to arrange any
elections process to assure that he remained in power. The activities of political
parties other than the AFDL were suspended after Kabila took over, and anti-
government demonstrations were banned.
Kabila’s treatment of the press and opposition voices in society raised grave
concerns among human rights and democracy advocates. Several journalists were
arrested or harassed, some newspapers were closed, and the opposition was denied
access to the broadcast media, which the government controls. Some opposition
politicians, other government critics, and figures from the former regime were also
Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, who led the non-violent political struggle against
Mobutu, at great personal cost over many years, was exiled to his remote home
village by Kabila in February 1998, although he was later allowed to return to
Kinshasa and then went into exile in Belgium. Tshisekedi, who regards himself as
Congo’s rightful prime minister, is an advocate of what he calls “plural democracy”
and a strong critic of the political party ban. Laurent Kabila criticized Tshisekedi
and the rest of the non-violent opposition to Mobutu for their fractiousness and
ineffectiveness against Mobutu. In April 2001, Tshisekedi, who is reportedly
regarded as a “difficult person” and “tempestuous” by some western observers,18
returned to Congo after a 15-month exile.
On May 17, 2001, the Joseph Kabila government lifted the formal ban on
political party activity, and on July 21, it was announced that parties were free to
restart normal political activities. However, two journalists attempting to cover an
opposition press conference were detained by the authorities on July 24, and on July
30, an opposition protest demonstration over the delay in starting the internal
political dialogue was broken up by police.19 Hence, the status of democratization
in Congo remains in question.
18Washington Post (June 27, 1997).
19“NGO Protests Detention of Two Foreign Journalists,” United Nations Integrated Regional
Information Network (July 28, 2001); “Police Break Up Opposition Protest in Congo’s
Capital,” Associated Press (July 30, 2001).
Both phases of the Congo conflict have been marked by serious human rights
abuses, hunger, killings of civilians, and the forcible displacement of civilian
populations; but detailed and reliable information on the humanitarian situation has
been difficult to obtain. On June 29, 1998, U.N. Secretary General Annan
transmitted to the Security Council the report of a U.N. team that had been
investigating allegations of massacres and other human rights violations during the
1996-1997 civil war. The Secretary General said two conclusions stood out: that all
parties to the conflict had committed serious human rights violations; and that
killings by the AFDL and elements of the Rwandan Patriotic Army constituted
crimes against humanity and may have constituted genocide, pending further
investigation. The Secretary General noted with “deep regret” that the investigating
team had not been allowed to carry out its mission fully and without hindrance by the
Congolese government. The governments of Congo and Rwanda rejected the
findings of the report.
Human rights organizations have released a number of reports alleging
widespread human rights abuses during the second phase of the Congo conflict – and
during the period since the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement was signed. A Human
Rights Watch [http://www.hrw.org] study issued on May 16, 2000, charged that
Congo rebels and Rwandan soldiers had carried out rapes and civilian killings on a
massive scale. Amnesty International charged on June 1, 2000 that Ugandan troops
had played a role in ethnic unrest in the Ituri region, near the Ugandan border, that
killed 7,000 civilians in 1999. Uganda firmly denied the charge, and a spokesman
claimed that Ugandan troops were noted for their good discipline.20 Representative
Frank Wolf, after returning from a January 2001 trip to several African countries,
reported widespread suffering in eastern Congo, including numerous incidents of
rape carried out by soldiers of all sides.
On May 8, 2001, the International Rescue Committee released a report
indicating that since August 1998, 2.5 million people in eastern Congo who would
not otherwise have perished had died because of the war.21 Based on 11 mortality
surveys in five eastern provinces, the report found high levels of indiscriminate
violence and disproportionate deaths among children. Save the Children, Oxfam, and
Christian AID reported on August 7, 2001, that more than 16 million people in
Congo are going hungry, more than two million have been displaced by war, and two
out of five children are dying in infancy.22
20Africa News Service (June 1, 2000).
21The report may be found at [http://www.theIRC.org/mortality.cfm]
22“Congo in Dire Trouble, Say Agencies,” BBC (August 7, 2001).
Prospects for the Future
Diplomats in Africa and the West had hoped that the months following the
signing of the Lusaka agreement would see the arrival of growing numbers of
peacekeepers, and – as confidence in the process built – a gradual withdrawal of
foreign forces and the launching of a substantive dialogue between rebel leaders and
the Kabila regime. Laurent Kabila came to be seen as an obstacle to the peace
process, and there is still much hope that the new Joseph Kabila government will
move the process forward.
During his February 2001 overseas trip, Joseph Kabila impressed foreign leaders
with his willingness to compromise and to permit a resumption of the internal
political dialogue. Some regard this dialogue as the best hope for the country’s future,
since it has the potential to restore political unity and promote reconciliation, while
creating the basis for the eventual election of a legitimate, civilian government. Yet
many are concerned that ethnic and political divisions among Congo politicians, as
well as between the armed rebel groups and internal non-violent opposition, will
prove too wide to bridge.
There is also concern that Joseph Kabila, who was reportedly just 29 years of
age when he took office, lacks the power and experience to maintain political
stability in the capital, or to guide the peace process to a successful conclusion.
There have been rumors of coup attempts and dozens of people have reportedly been
jailed on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Laurent Kabila. Finally,
many worry that Rwanda, Uganda, and their rebel allies are at best lukewarm with
respect to the peace process, and have little interest in bringing it to a rapid
conclusion. In part, analysts argue, their attitude reflects legitimate security concerns
on such issues as the role of the Kabila government in assisting the armed groups.
But, experts maintain, it may also reflect the stake rebel leaders and elites from
Rwanda and Uganda have acquired in their continued exploitation of Congo’s
Conceivably, fighting could resume if rebel groups and their external backers
come to feel that their interests are not being protected – and if the numbers of
peacekeepers remain small. If the process falters, Congo could fall into a prolonged,
de-facto breakup leaving an unstable central government backed by Angola and/or
Zimbabwe in control of the capital region and the coast; Bemba and ex-Mobutuists
dominant in the northwest, with support from Uganda; Uganda in control of the
northeast in alliance with the small Wamba RCD faction; and South Kivu together
with an undefined area to the west under the RCD-Goma with backing from Rwanda.
The fate of mineral-rich Katanga (Shaba) in this break-up scenario, and of the
Kasais, including the diamond center at Mbuji Mayi, is not yet clear.
If the peace process does move forward, the Phase II peacekeeping force will
face major challenges in view of the large number of armed groups, the large stores
of weapons that have accumulated over years of conflict, and the country’s gravely
deteriorated infrastructure. Nonetheless, such a force, working in cooperation with
23Philip Reyntjens, “Briefing: The Democratic Republic of Congo, From Kabila to Kabila,”
African Affairs (2001) 311-317.
an actively engaged JMC and backed by pressure from donors, could eventually
prepare the way for a Phase III deployment and other steps toward long-term
Congo was a contentious issue in U.S. foreign policy from 1960 into the early
1990s. The Cold War and the emergence of a communist regime in Cuba were very
much on the minds of policymakers in 1960 and lent a special urgency to their efforts
to stabilize Congo through U.N. peacekeeping. Policy-makers saw this approach as
the best available means for minimizing Soviet influence in Congo. Some U.S.
critics of the policy, however, regarded the United Nations itself as a leftist influence
and thought that the United States should have fostered the secession of Katanga
province as a bastion against communism.
The most controversial event of that era was the death of Prime Minister
Lumumba in January 1961. Many American observers regarded him as a communist
and Soviet agent, although others argued that he was essentially a nationalist and
populist. Evidence developed at 1975 Senate hearings indicated that U.S. officials
had attempted to implement a plan to assassinate Lumumba through poisoning or
exposure to a virus. This plot evidently failed, and Lumumba died in Katanga after
falling into the hands of secessionist forces. Whether the United States played a role
in this event was a matter of controversy, but it is widely believed in Congo that the
United States was indeed involved. (The Belgian parliament is currently
investigating charges that the actual assassination of Lumumba was planned and
carried out by Belgians.) Many Congolese also blame the United Nations, which
had a peacekeeping force in Congo at the time, for failing to protect Lumumba.
Mobutu enjoyed good relations with the United States in the first years of his
regime. President Carter, however, pressed for human rights improvements as well
as political and economic reforms. Nonetheless, Carter found himself lending air
transport to an intervention by Belgium, France, and other countries during the 1978
Shaba uprising because of concern over Soviet gains in Africa. Mobutu’s relations
with the Reagan Administration were close, and in 1983 Reagan described the
Zairian leader as “a faithful friend to the United States for some 20 years.” In the late
1980s, officials often expressed reservations about Mobutu’s human rights record
and economic policies but suggested that no alternative leader appeared capable of
maintaining stability in Zaire.
In the early 1960s, U.S. economic aid to Zaire amounted to between one-quarter
and one-third of all U.S. economic assistance to sub-Saharan Africa. Aid reached
high levels again in FY1976 through FY1978 in response to perceived Soviet gains
in Africa and the crises in Shaba province. Aid rose once more in the second half of
the 1980s, reflecting Zaire’s deteriorating economic situation and perhaps Zaire’s
cooperative role in the Angola situation. From the beginning of 1986, the executive
branch had publicly acknowledged giving covert assistance to UNITA in Angola, and
according to many press reports, important facilities for channeling this aid to
UNITA were located in Zaire. Overall, according to the U.S. Agency for
International Development, the United States provided $1.3 billion in economic and
military assistance to Zaire between 1962 and 1991.24 The focus of U.S. Angola
policy after 1991 shifted to implementation of the Angolan peace agreements, and
Zaire lost any value it might have had as a staging area for covert U.S. military aid.
The deteriorating situation in Zaire after the beginning of 1990, the end of the
Cold War, and the Angolan agreements decisively shifted executive branch views of
Mobutu. Secretary of State James Baker visited Zaire in March 1990 and urged
Mobutu to undertake reforms — or risk being swept aside. U.S. aid fell from $38
million in 1991 to less than $1 million in 1991, and then ceased almost entirely.25
The Clinton Administration continued to pressure Mobutu for reforms, and efforts
were launched to persuade Zairians across the political spectrum, including Mobutu,
to move forward with a free and fair vote. U.S. policy on Zaire was impeded by the
weakening of policy coordination in the “troika” of major external actors — France,
Belgium, and the United States — after the May 1995 election of President Jacques
Chirac in France. Chirac met personally with Mobutu in April 1996, and Paris said
it would resume aid to Zaire. French policymakers appeared to see the United States
as a competitor for economic and political influence in Zaire.
In May 1997, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson
carried out an urgent round of diplomacy in Zaire and the region aimed at arranging
what he later called a “soft-landing” for Kabila’s rebels when they reached the
capital to avoid “bloodshed and chaos.” Secretary Albright announced during a
December 12, 1997 press conference with Kabila that she would be working with
Congress on a substantial aid package to assist the Congolese people and their
government in building democratic institutions and governing capacity. The Clinton
Administration strongly supported the Lusaka peace process.
With the deteriorating
U.S. Aid to Congo in FY2001 political situation in Congo,
(Estimated, $000)discussion of a substantial aid
program faded. However, in
Development Assistance: 1,288FY1998, the U.S. Agency for
Child Survival and Disease15,809International Development
Programs Fund(USAID) did resume a limited
Emergency Assistance, in-60,485development assistance
cluding Food Aidprogram focused on infant,
child, and maternal health, as
Total77,582well as on efforts to strengthen
civil society, enhance food
security, and promote bio-
diversity. USAID maintains that its presence in Congo puts it in position to respond
swiftly to any opportunities that may arise for supporting implementation of the
24U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants and
Assistance from International Organizations, July 1, 1945-September 30, 1994, 75.
25Assistance through the Peace Corps ended in FY1993, but Zaire received $65,000 in
development assistance in FY1995. USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
provided disaster relief in response to humanitarian emergencies in 1994 and 1997.
Lusaka agreement.26 In addition, the United States is providing substantial amounts
of emergency humanitarian assistance in response to hunger and health problems
arising from continuing insecurity in Congo.27
For FY2001, as indicated in the accompanying Text Box, U.S. assistance is
expected to total more than $77 million. The Bush Administration has requested
$2.8 million in Development Assistance for Congo in FY2002 and $15.8 million
under the Child Survival and Disease Programs Fund. Emergency assistance
requirements are not yet known.
In addition to direct assistance to Congo, the United States is contributing to the
United Nations in support of MONUC peacekeeping operation. In its FY2002
budget submission to Congress, the Department of State reports that the United
States contributed $30.2 million for MONUC in FY2000, as the operation got
underway, and the Department estimates the FY2001 contribution at $5.3 million.
In view of the anticipated expansion of MONUC, the Bush Administration has
requested $83.5 million for MONUC in FY2002.
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed Congo with African leaders during
a visit to the continent in May 2001, urging all parties to respect the Lusaka
agreement. He told an audience in South Africa that he had been meeting with
protagonists in the conflict since January and was “cautiously optimistic” that the
Lusaka agreement would bring peace to Congo.
Congressional concerns over the Mobutu regime began to grow in the late
1970s. In subsequent years, a series of hearings and reports, sometimes growing out
of Member and staff visits, focused on allegations of corruption, human rights
violations, and shortcomings in the U.S. aid program. In 1985, Congress imposed
restrictions on security assistance to Zaire, and in the early 1990s, as instability and
human rights violations mounted, both the House and Senate passed resolutions
urging Mobutu to step down (102nd Congress, H.Con.Res. 238, S.Con.Res. 80).
After the Rwanda upheaval, several Members studied the refugee situation directly
through visits to the camps around Goma.
The obstacles created by the Laurent Kabila regime to the U.N. investigation of
human rights violations during the first rebellion, as well as reports of ongoing
human rights violations, gave rise to some congressional skepticism toward the new
regime — and toward Clinton Administration policy. The annual Foreign Operations28
Appropriations for FY1999 through FY2001 prohibited assistance to the central
26USAID, Budget Justification to the Congress, Fiscal Year 2002, Annex I, Africa, 90.
27For the most recent information visit [http://www.usaid.gov], then click on Disaster
Assistance and Reports Index.
28The FY1999 prohibition (P.L. 105-277, Section 575) would have permitted the resumption
of aid if the President reported in writing that those responsible for human rights violations
were being investigated and prosecuted, and that a credible democratic transition was being
government to the Congo. This restriction does not appear in the House-passed
version of the FY2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 2506), although,
as in previous years, the bill would require notification of the Committees on
Appropriations before aid is expended or committed for Congo. (At time of
publication, the report on the Senate version of the Foreign Operations
Appropriations had not been released.)
On January 30, 2001, Representative Alcee Hastings introduced H.Con.Res. 16
calling for a peaceful transition to stability and democracy in the DRC.
Appendix 1. Democratic Republic of the Congo
SudanCentral African Republic
Zongo AbaGb a d ol i t e
Bo ndoCa meroon
Tit u l e
Ak et iBum b aLisala Isiro Mun gbe re
Ben iKisangani UgandaGa b o n
LakeEdwardUbundiBoe ndeMbanda ka NORTH
La k eKivu
La cMa i-Ndombe B uk avu Rwa nda
UviraPort de KinduBandunduEAST
Ileb oK ins hasa B ANDUN DU KASA I KIV U
Kikw itTs h e l a W EST MANI EMA
Mb anza-N gunguMatad i KIN SHA SA KASAI Tanzan ia
Kal e me iKana ng a
Moa nda Ts hikapa Ka ba loMb uj i - Mayi
La k eTa nganyik aManono
AngolaRegion boundaryNational capital
Adapted by CRS from Magellan Geographix. Used with permission.
Appendix 2. Acronyms
AFDLAlliance of Democratic Forces of Congo-Zaire. Political organization
founded by the late Laurent Kabila, with Rwandan support, in 1996.
DDRDisarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.
DDRRRDisarmament, demobilization, reintegration, resettlement, and
DRCDemocratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.
ex-FARBands of Hutu militants formerly in the pre-genocide army of
ex-FAZBands of former soldiers of President Mobutu’s Armed Forces of
Zaire. The current strength and alignment of ex-FAZ units are
unclear. Some ex-FAZ are believed to be sheltering in the Republic
of Congo, also known as Congo Brazzaville.
FLCFront for the Liberation of the Congo. MLC-dominated rebel group
including a splinter of the RCD led by Mbusa Nyamwisi. Friction
between MLC leader Bemba and Nyamwisi has been reported.
JMCJoint Military Commission, including military representatives of
national and armed forces, as provided for in the Lusaka agreement.
MLCMovement for the Liberation of the Congo. Uganda-backed rebel
group headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba and based in northwest Congo.
MONUCUnited Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, first authorized in August 1999.
OAUOrganization of African Unity.
PRPParty of the Popular Revolution, Laurent original party, based in the
mountains of eastern Congo.
RCDCongolese Democratic Rally or Party. Congo rebel movement,
whose main, Rwanda-backed faction is based at Goma, DRC.
Wamba dia Wamba’s Uganda-aligned faction, RCD-Kisangani, is
believed to be in a severely weakened state, and Wamba himself has
been reported to be in Tanzania.
UDPSUnion for Democracy and Social Progress, headed by Tshisekedi wa
UNITANational Union for the Total Independence of Angola. Angolan rebel
movement headed by Jonas Savimbi.